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Originally published in Matter/Antimatter 3.4 in 1983

Kirk was whistling as he walked down the corridor toward Spock's quarters. He was feeling especially cheerful because he had just decided where they were going on their shore leave. It had been an unusually difficult decision, and he had been pondering it for several days. For once, the crew did not have to settle for whatever facilities were handy; there were several planets in the area within a couple of days' shuttle distance from Starbase Three.  The Enterprise would be in drydock for well over a week, undergoing minor but necessary repairs. Kirk was more than ready for a solid week alone with Spock, surrounded by plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and the sound of the surf. He had found the perfect place only a day's travel from the Starbase.

He whistled his way into Spock's quarters and slipped a tape into the viewer on the desk, swiveling it around to show Spock.  "Take a Gander at that! Gorgeous, isn't it? It's just what we're looking for." Kirk grinned as Spock dutifully inspected the image on the screen.  "lt's a private estate on Esau Two. I had a devil of a time persuading Jackson Deren, the owner, to rent it to me. I used to work for his freight lines during semester breaks at the Academy. He was impressed that little Jimmy Kirk had made it to starship captain. Rank hath its privileges. Anyway, we get the place for a whole week."

Kirk sat down on the edge of the desk, his expression eager and bubbling with enthusiasm.  "There's a cottage on the beach, and it's about fifty kilometers from a city. We could even go in and catch a concert or something one night. Best of all, it's very private and--"

"Jim," Spock broke in, switching off the tape, "perhaps Dr. McCoy would care to accompany you--"

"Bones? Are you kidding? It's not his type of thing for a shore leave..." Kirk trailed off as he realized what Spock meant. "You're not talking about him going with us, are you? Just with me" His face fell. "You don't want to go. You don't like it."

Spock sighed. "We have been to every lake, river, stream, pond, and ocean in this quadrant. I do not like water, Jim."

Kirk was both startled and crestfallen. "Aren't you exaggerating a little?' he asked weakly.

"Yes," Spock admitted, "but only a little." He sailed slightly. "Jim, I know you wish to go, and you should. You need the relaxation. If Dr. McCoy does not care to accompany you, I am sure you could find someone else. There is, for instance, Mr. Sulu. He is interested in botany, and Esau Two has some fascinating--"

 "For godsakes, Spock, I don't want to go to a private cottage with Sulu! You and I always take our shore leaves together."

 "Not always," Spock countered gently. "Four point three weeks ago you went with Dr. McCoy to the casino on--"

"That was one night," Kirk protested quickly, "not a whole week. And you told me... you told me you didn't mind."

"I did not. Our bond does not mean we must share all our interests. That would be impossible and undesirable. We are very different individuals." Spock paused. "I dislike disappointing you, however, I am committed elsewhere for this leave."

A twinge of jealousy hit Kirk.  "Oh, really?" he said sullenly. He also felt a bit guilty because he knew Spock was right. During the six months or so since they had become bondmates, he had more or less pushed his ideas for their shore leaves on Spock. He had not done it intentionally, but now that he thought about it, they had not once gone to a place Spock had suggested. Then again, Spock had not made any suggestions.

Kirk relented and leaned over to slide his fingers through the dark silky hair in an affectionate caress. "I'm sorry, Spock. You're right. It's your turn to pick a shore leave. I'm game. Where do you want to go?"

Spock appeared uncomfortable.  "It is not...you would not be interested.  I will be occupied most of the week."

"Doing what?" Kirk asked curiously. Spock was being unusually vague.

Now, Spock seemed a little embarrassed. "It is a family matter. There is a small mining planet leased by my father's cousin's husband, and it is a few hours from Starbase Three. They have been having difficulties with the computer system."

'Your...father's...cousin's...husband?" Kirk repeated slowly. "What kind of relationship is that? An uncle or something?"

'The translation is imprecise. The term for the relationship is r'dethik..." Spock shrugged. "On Vulcan, all family is important. In any case, Sedric requested--"

"Sedric?" Kirk asked in a tight voice. He cleared his throat to control his sudden urge to giggle. 'Your...Uncle Sedric?"

Spock regarded him impassively. "Yes, his name is Sedric."

Kirk swallowed. 'l see.  It's a...it's a... nice name." He maintained a straight face with difficulty. "You say he's leased the planet for mining? l'm not sure l understand."

"He manufactures lighting fixtures. The planet supplies the ore, which is tenulin.  It is used in the base and the filaments."

"You mean he...makes lamps?" Kirk inquired hesitantly.  "I was under the impression your entire family consisted of ambassadors or teachers or planetary leaders or..."

"He is only related by marriage," Spock said apologetically.

This time, Kirk was forced to bite his lip. "Of course. So what's the problem with the computer?"

"Recently it has been behaving erratically. The planet is totally automated, and the ore ships arrive on a bi-monthly basis.  The locating and processing of the ore are controlled by the computer system. Unfortunately, the last two shipments have consisted of nothing except totally useless material."

"Why should you be the one to look into it?"

"It is logical since I am in the area. It would require three weeks for a computer technician to make the journey from Vulcan... and at great expense.  As l will have the free time, it is only natural that I lend my services."

"Thank God I have a small family," Kirk muttered under his breath.

"I beg your pardon?"

“Uh...nothing. Do you really want to go there, Spock?"

Spock hesitated. "It is an interesting problem.  The computer should not be malfunctioning in this manner. And the planet is like Vulcan in many respects."

Kirk grinned mischievously. "You said it's... totally automated?"

'Yes. It is quite barren. There are few life forms of any type."

The gleam in Kirk's eyes brightened. "Okay, when do we leave?"

"Jim," Spock cautioned, recognizing the look, "I will be occupied in repairing the computer. You would not find it entertaining."

Kirk laughed and stood, pulling Spock to his feet. "Don't worry about me. I'll find something to do." He ran his hands under Spock's shirt. "Being alone with you is enough for me."

"Are you certain?" Spock asked doubtfully. "My attention will be--"

Kirk cut him off with a kiss, and Spock relaxed in spite of himself, meeting the invading tongue with guilty delight. It irritated him that Jim could do this to him so easily. A touch of that seductive mouth a stroke with those hands and he melted every time. He had never thought of himself as a very sexual person until he bonded with Jim. He had tried to suppress all feelings, both physical and emotional, but there was no possible way to be with a man as overwhelmingly and delightfully sensual as Jim without being forced to admit his own appetites in the same area. They were stronger than he ever would have believed, and just as demanding as Jim's.

Finally, Kirk pulled back, looking at Spock with large, twinkling hazel eyes. "Why don't we start this leave off right?"

The cool, inviting hands were moving restlessly beneath Spock's shirt, skimming over his back and chest, and the softly demanding mouth on his left him with little resistance. Nevertheless, he made an attempt. "Jim, we agreed we would not..."

"Sure we did," Kirk interrupted, chuckling. "And how many times have we broken our own rule? I don't think the enterprise will be overrun with Klingons if we break it for the fiftieth time and make love. Especially considering we're both off duty and the ship is in drydock."

Spock flushed a slightly deeper shade of green and permitted Kirk to lead him to the red-draped bedchamber...taking the precaution of setting the door lock first. While it was true their first intention after the bonding had been to keep their physical relationship separate from the ship they had slipped in the resolve more times than Spock cared to count. It irritated him that, although he considered himself extremely controlled and well-disciplined in other areas, he could never seem to deny Jim. And Jim, who had been the one to suggest the rule originally, thought it was quite amusing that they broke it so consistently. Spock found this a bit baffling, even though he believed he had long ago accustomed himself to the inconsistency of Humans. Of course, this particular Human’s eccentricities were often more puzzling than most... which was, no doubt, one of the things he found so intriguing about Jim.

Their lovemaking was quick, wonderful, and passionate, Kirk sighed contentedly and curled up against Spock, falling into a peaceful, relaxed sleep. Spock held him close, caressing the bright hair and enjoying the sight of the firepot's dim red light glinting off the wide, strong body beside him. The man was beautiful by any definition of the term: the face delicate, yet strong in the jaw and brow; the eyelashes so long as to be called almost feminine; the neck and shoulders muscular and marvelously masculine; the entire body sleek and healthily golden, charged with energy even in rest. After nearly six months of bonding, Spock still felt he would never grow tired of just looking. He wondered, doubtfully, if Jim felt the same about him.

Spock's gaze moved from Kirk to stare at the ceiling. He was satisfied by their lovemaking and at the same time unsatisfied. Something was lacking... He decided that 'something' must be in himself. Surely it could not be in Jim. Jim was delightful, incredibly, and fantastically and overwhelmingly delightful.

Or was he?

Guiltily Spock tried to shake the thought away. It was heresy. How could he dare even consider that Jim was not perfect? Jim certainly had far more experience. In fact, the crew's underground nickname for him still arose on occasion to bother him. Tomcat.  "T" for Tomcat. A male feline renowned for its amatory activities.

He had been well aware of Jim's rather adventurous sexual past when they bonded. They had even discussed it. Spock had felt the fact Jim would be relinquishing his sexual freedom was a basic drawback to their bonding. He had received the distinct impression that Jim was rather proud of his reputation, though he claimed he had no real desire to perpetuate it. Spock had believed him. He still did. If Jim still desired women... and Spock was positive he did... then he was able to sublimate that desire and channel it into other areas. Jim was committed to him both emotionally and physically, and if there was one overriding factor in Jim's personality, it was honesty. Jim would not have made that promise if he had not truly wanted to. Spock was very certain of that... and he was very certain of Jim. That was not the question. Right now, he was attempting to discover what he found lacking in their physical relationship.

Spock was amazed the thought would occur to him at all. He was a Vulcan! Why was he concerned with such... trivial matters? Jim satisfied him, of that there was no doubt. The damp and sticky condition of the bed and his body confirmed it. In fact, he rather wished Jim would roll off his arm so he could take a shower. Somehow, though, in spite of the satisfaction, there was something...something about Jim's technique...

Again, Spock paused. This was indeed blasphemy. Who was he to say that James... T for Tomcat... Kirk was unskilled at lovemaking? How absurd! They had been making love for almost six months and he had no complaints. Or did he? It was a difficult question. At first, he had been too stunned and drowned in the exquisite sensations to notice any lack. Simply holding that lush, incredible body in his arms had been paradise. Having Jim want him in return had been ecstasy. The kisses had been silk and fire and delight. The caresses had been molten sweetness and flame. Unfortunately, they were all too often cut short since Jim was too impatient by nature to spend much time on the preliminaries. To a Vulcan, however, the preliminaries were nearly as important as the act itself.

Once more Spock halted. He was surprised at himself. What was he complaining about? The orgasms were still spiraling hot novas releasing stars of magnificent brightness, his senses overloading in pure joy. How could he deny that? It was surely more than he had ever hoped for or dreamed of.  T'Pring certainly would not have brought him this. And his dim memory of Zarabeth was...dim. Nothing compared to his happiness with Jim. Leila? Ridiculous. She was too passive herself to have given him this degree of passion. It took a solid flint to strike a spark and hard wood to burn at length. Jim was both as strong as stone and as living and growing as a t'saro tree. Leila was plastic. Zarabeth was little more than a snowflake.

He dismissed his dissatisfaction, brushing it aside. He had Jim, and he was grateful for that. After all, what few complaints he had were too trivial to worry about.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The rented shuttle settled on the planet with a solid thump. As they stepped out, Kirk looked around doubtfully at the bleak landscape. "I thought you said it was like Vulcan?" he asked ruefully.

"I believe I said it resembled Vulcan in certain respects," Spock corrected. "The temperature is similar, as is the moisture content. The atmosphere is somewhat richer in oxygen; however, it is more barren. Geologically this is a very young planet. In a few million years, it may develop a sapient life form."

"I can hardly wait," Kirk muttered under his breath.

The landscape was a jumble of harsh rock formations, dry reddish sand, and an occasional pool of bubbling gray liquid. It was not the most appealing place Kirk had ever seen. The heat was beginning to bother him, too, but he was not about to ask Spock the exact temperature. He had the feeling that hearing it quoted to the nth degree plus decimal points would just make him feel hotter.

"The complex will be more comfortable," Spock said sympathetically.

They walked toward the buildings, which resembled geodesic domes with interesting variations. They gave the impression of being both rounded and angular. Kirk was positive there was a logical reason for it… not that he had any intention of asking Spock what the reason might be. That was a question in a long line of questions he had decided it was best to ignore. He had never been able to totally cure Spock of the habit of answering almost any question with an academic lecture. Kirk had learned to phrase his questions very carefully... especially when they were off duty.

Once inside, Spock sealed off the buildings with a touch of a switch and adjusted the controls to a... for Jim... bearable temperature of eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature dropped, Kirk began to relax. The interior of the domes was quite pleasant, although somewhat stark. It was Vulcan in both mood and practicality. The living quarters had been designed mainly for the use of the builders of the complex. The cargo vessels rarely remained for more than a few hours. There was a living area, a small kitchen stocked with supplies, and a sleeping area furnished with several beds. The largest dome housed the computer.

Kirk was a bit disappointed with the bedroom. It had been designed for ten occupants and all the beds were singles. But he decided it would not be too difficult to push two or three of them together. He preferred a lot of room, and he was a little tired of the narrow beds on the Enterprise.

Spock excused himself as quickly as possible. "Jim, I would like to make a preliminary check of the computers, if you do not mind.”

"No, go ahead," Kirk assured him. "I'll look around.”

After Spock left, Kirk occupied himself with the task of inspecting the quarters. Unfortunately, there was not a lot to see, and he fell gratefully on the small library computer i n the corner of the living area. The library computer would give him something to do while Spock was piddling with the computers. He had always been an avid reader, but as the captain of a starship, he seldom had much time for it. Now, even if Spock were busy for fourteen hours a day on those blasted computers, at least he would have the opportunity to read as much as he liked. Maybe this shore leave would not be such a disaster after all.

Kirk sat down contentedly and dialed a random selection. He stared at it for a second, then switched to another, and another. Quickly he slipped in a tape catalogue of the selections and scanned the list. He shut off the viewer with disgust, nearly breaking the switch.

It might as well have been in Greek. It was all in Vulcan.

"Damn!" Kirk said softly. "Now what do I do?' He wandered around for a while, tried to take a nap, failed, and wandered around some more. When he tried taking a walk outside the complex, he ducked back inside as fast as he could, wiping the sweat from his face. Going outside was definitely a mistake... while the sun was high, anyway.

Finally, he went through the door to the computer dome. All that was visible of Spock were his boots sticking out from under a console. Kirk went over and squatted down beside them. He was a bit hesitant about disturbing Spock, but he decided, optimistically, that Spock could not be too involved this quickly. After all, he had said he was going to do a preliminary check,

"Spock," he called out confidently.

There was the unmistakable thump of a head hitting something soundly. The feet had no expression. Kirk sat back uncertainly, wondering how to apologize to a pair of boots for startling their owner. After a second, Spock squirmed out of the access panel.

"I did not realize you were here," Spock remarked calmly. "The computer relays muffled the sound of your approach."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to sneak up on you. What are you doing?"

"I am endeavoring to ascertain the damage to the circuits. Obviously, there is a short in the main wiring, although it is difficult to locate the exact relay. Was there something you required?'

"Uh...no, not really." Kirk squirmed a little himself. "How long do you think the repairs will take?"

"That is difficult to say. The computer is still operating, however, the connections to the memory banks are impaired. Finding the damaged linkages will take time, and I will have to locate them before I can discover what created the problem and estimate the extent of it as well as correct it."

"Oh." Kirk bit his lip, picturing a solid week of walking around in circles to keep from climbing the curved walls in sheer boredom. "Can I help?" he suggested hopefully.

Spock appeared doubtful. "Jim, you are not... well educated in computer theory."

"What do you mean?" Kirk replied indignantly. "I've worked with computers enough to know what I'm doing. I took courses at the Academy, and I've even done some repairs on the Enterprise computers when I had to."

"Jim, the Enterprise's computers are of a different design and..." Spock tried to phrase it tactfully. "...your methods are somewhat... unorthodox. While I do not doubt your ability, if you were properly trained... I do not believe you have the..." He fumbled with the word. "...the knack. As a captain, you are excellent indeed, but as a computer repairman…" His eyebrow lifted quizzically.

"Listen, I'll just do what you tell me. I can't go very wrong, can I?"

Spock looked into the eager green/gray eyes and relented. Jim so obviously wanted to help. "Very well. It may expedite matters." He indicated the lights on the board. "Watch the telltales on the panel Inform me of the color they indicate, then press the switch numbers as I direct you."

"Sure, I can do that," Kirk answered confidently.

Spock crawled back under the panel. His voice was faint and somewhat muffled as he asked the first question.

"Green," Kirk replied.

"And now?" Spock inquired.



"Still green."

"Press slide two-A, four-two-B."

Kirk did as he was told.

"Light color?" Spock asked.


'Slide four, four-eight-C. And the light color?"


They continued for some time, Kirk pressing buttons, Spock giving numbers. Kirk began to feel a little bored with this, too. After an hour or so, Kirk found himself daydreaming between requests from Spock. He wondered if Deren had rented the cottage on the ocean to someone else. He wondered if the surf was cool and salty. He wondered if the sky was blue instead of orange. He wondered if he would ever be able to teach Spock to enjoy the power and the beauty of the ocean...

"Nine-two-three-four, slide four-three-A?"

Still daydreaming, Kirk pushed a button. The result was a strange whining sound, and he stepped back, startled. "It's... it's red, Spock," he called out hesitantly. The whine increased. He tried to shut it off. The button was stuck. "It's very red," he repeated.

Before Spock could slide out from under it, a distinct crackle and snap erupted from the console. A tiny puff of smoke rose in the air, and as Spock's head appeared, a shower of sparks flew over the large board. There was more smoke, and a very loud twang.

Spock stared at it for quite a long time before he turned to stare at Kirk, who glanced at him sheepishly.

"Did I... did it do much damage?"

"No," Spock said between clenched teeth, "other than the fact the entire relay system for this section is short-circuited."

Kirk winced. "That bad, huh? I guess I wasn't paying attention. I thought you said nine-two- three-four, slide four-three-H."

"It was nine-two-three-four, slide four-three-f."

"I'm sorry. Will it take long to fix?"

"lt will require at least one solar day to rewire," Spock replied tersely, hanging onto his patience by a thread. "Nothing difficult, I assure you, merely tedious."

"Maybe if I help..." Kirk offered.

"No!" Spock said quickly. He calmed down with an effort. "No, Jim, thank you, but I believe it would be best if I continued the work alone." He paused at the hurt expression on Kirk's face. "Jim, most of the work is now under the panel, and it is really a one-man job. I appreciate the assistance you have given me, however, there is nothing else you can do at the moment. Perhaps...perhaps later."

"Later?" Kirk brightened. "Okay, I'll come back later."

"Not today," Spock stressed. "It will take time to correct...In a few days it may be possible for you to assist me."

Kirk's face fell again. "Oh. I guess I really messed things up, didn't I?"

Spock felt terrible. Jim was a complicated person. Sometimes he could be tough, and nothing could affect him, other times he could be terribly sensitive. The last thing Spock had wanted to do was to hurt Jim's feelings. He stood and walked over to Kirk, turning him around to face him, and kissed Jim thoroughly. "I am sorry," he said softly. "I knew you would not be happy here. There is so little to occupy you. I should never have permitted..."

"Hey, I wanted to come. I wanted to be with you. That's enough. I'll keep myself busy. Don't worry. After all, there's the library computer, right? You know how much I love to read, and I never get the chance." The last thing Kirk wanted to do was to make Spock feel guilty about him being here, especially after he had muscled his way into this to begin with.

'There is a library computer here?" Spock asked, the relief evident in his voice. "I am pleased. Perhaps you will not be so bored."

"l'm not bored," Kirk assured him hastily. "You just work on the computer, and I'll see you later, okay? Tonight we'll see if I'm bored or not."

Spock smiled and kissed him again. He broke away as Kirk attempted to turn it into something a little more inviting. Spock was quite familiar with that trick. "I will see you at dinner, Jim," he said firmly.

As Kirk turned away and left, Spock breathed a sigh of pure relief. As much as he loved Jim, there were times when he could grate on well-ordered nerves.

Spock gave an apologetic glance to the computer console, feeling uncomfortably similar to Mr. Scott and his beloved engines after Jim had asked too much of them. Then he slid back under the panel, scarcely knowing where to begin the repairs. In spite of Jim's fervent desire to help, Spock devoutly hoped he would not come within ten meters of the computer again.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Spock faced a very subdued Kirk at dinner. He could see, plainly, that Jim felt out of his element. Spock felt a little guilty about sending hie away so abruptly from the computer work. Apparently Jim was less than happy here, and although Spock had given him fair warning of what it would be like, Jim... with his usual optimism...had not believed him. In a way, it irritated Spock that Jim had not accepted his assurance that the planet would be of no interest to him. It also warmed him that Jim wished to be with him so much he had dismissed the warning. Another paradox. Of course, their whole relationship was something of a paradox.

At the same time, Kirk was thinking along similar lines, wishing he had taken Spock's advice and gone to Esau Two. He would go stir crazy with nothing to do for a week. This was just the first day! And yet as he studied the angular features across the table, he had to admit he would have been just as miserable on Esau Two without Spock. The days here might be unbearably dull, but the nights would make up for it.

He watched the light catch on the raven hair as Spock lifted his gaze from his plate to look at him. Kirk felt his excitement quicken in response to the exquisitely soft brown eyes. God! he thought. Spock can be so damned beautiful when he lets his face relax from that stoic mask he puts on. He's handsome, anyway, but there are times, like now, when he's so...so...incredible. I wonder if I'm the only one who's ever seen this expression on him? Gentle, soft, teasing. Christ, those eyes could melt neutronium.

Spock reached out his hand and took Kirk's. He smiled. "Were you able to keep yourself entertained?"

"Sure," Kirk replied, returning the smile. The boredom of the day did not seem to matter very much now that Spock's warm hand was in his. And there was also the prospect of much, much more. "How's the work going on the computer?"

"I have discovered what created the problem," Spock answered.

"Really? That's great! What was it?"

"A nest of nea'liths was in the control panel," Spock stated ruefully. "They gnawed through several of the main circuits to the memory banks.”

"Nea..." Kirk looked blank. "What the devil are those?'

Spock stood and went into the computer dome. In a few minutes, he returned with a small wire-mesh waste basket he had pressed into use as a cage by capping the top with a sheet of hard plastic.

Kirk looked into it curiously, then glanced back up at Spock and grinned. "Mice? Your computer was screwed up by... mice?"

"You are referring to a Terran species, although I must admit there are some similarities."

Kirk inspected the little creatures with amusement. He counted nine of them, and they did resemble Earth-type mice, except for their extraordinarily large, delicate ears, and their huge, moist black eyes that seemed sensitive to the light.

"They are nocturnal," Spock explained.

"Kind of cute, aren't they?" Kirk commented, chuckling. "Your Uncle Sedric should manufacture mouse traps instead of lamps. !'m a little surprised these little critters can live here. I thought this planet had only a few lizards."

"These... 'critters' are not indigenous to Esau Two," Spock elaborated with a smile. "I would surmise they were brought in, inadvertently, with the supply crates."

Kirk laughed. "You're saying there are...Vulcan rats? That doesn't sound very efficient."

"Rodents are common to many cultures, in many forms," Spock stated stiffly. "I fail to see why you are so surprised."

"It's just kind of strange to think of... Never mind.  Anyway, I suppose it won't take you long to fix the computer since you’ve found the trouble."

"On the contrary. They did a great deal of damage. It will require the better part of the week to repair it."

Kirk's expression fell. "Oh I see." He motioned toward the cage. "What are you going to do with the nea... the mice? You can't let them loose in the complex again, or they'll just chew up more wires. Are you going to set them free outside?"

Spock shook his head. "Their primary nourishment has been the condensed food cubes in the galley computer. It is doubtful they could survive outside the complex."

Kirk regarded the furry forms for a moment. They did not seem at all afraid. They came up to the side of the makeshift cage and poked their noses through the screen. "It's a shame you have to kill them."

Spock's eyes widened. "Kill them? I have no such intention."

Kirk looked at him in surprise. "What else can you do? It's only logical.  After all, they're pests."

"Yes, but..." Spock was silent for a while, as though he had not considered the problem. "I... thought we could take them back with us to the Enterprise."

"No way!" Kirk interrupted hotly. "I'm not going to have any rats on my ship!'

"It would be only a temporary arrangement, until they could be returned to Vulcan," Spock put in quickly. "There are a number of experimental animals on the ship in the laboratory. A few more would not--"

"No, Spock," Kirk said firmly. "I think it's carrying respect for life forms a little too far when you make the Enterprise a taxi service for mice. You're just going to have to...put them to sleep or something."

Spock gazed down at the cage, then handed it to Kirk. "Perhaps you would..."     

"No. I only wish to talk with you."

"Talk...to me..." Kirk replied sleepily. He blinked several times and laid his head on his arm. "Sure." His eyes closed.

Spock looked slightly impatient. "You are falling back to sleep."

"Huh? No, I'm...listening. Go ahead." Kirk yawned.

Spock sighed. "Very well. We have been bonded for six months, and I believe it is time we arrived at an understanding. Although the bond, on the whole, has been extremely satisfactory and of benefit to us both, in some areas there is a distinct lack of communication..." He broke off and stared at Kirk with carefully contained irritation. "Jim, you are not paying attention."

Kirk opened one eye. "Yes, I am. I heard every word. We've been bonded for six months and need to communicate more. Okay, starting tomorrow, we communicate more. Good night, Spock." He rolled over contentedly, snuggling against the pillow.

Spock did not say anything. However, Kirk could feel the dark eyes boring outraged holes in his back. He took a deep breath and shifted again, propping up his elbow and resting his chin on his hand. He glanced at the chronometer.

"Christ, Spock! Do you realize it's 0300 hours? What's so vital that we have to talk about it at three o'clock in the morning?"

"It is important to me," Spock replied stiffly, beginning to regret waking Jim at all, but deciding to be stubborn for once. Actually, he had been so engrossed in determining a delicate way of explaining the problem to Jim that he had not noticed the time.

Suddenly Kirk began to chuckle. He tried to hold his amusement in check when he noticed the stony glare from Spock. I'm... I'm sorry, Spock. This just seemed... funny for a second. Do you know what we sound like?" He caught his breath and tried to compose himself, "We sound like an old married couple with the wife waking the husband in the middle of the night to ask if he still loves her." Kirk broke up again.

Spock was not amused. Nor did he appreciate the simile. "That was not what I wished to discuss," he replied sternly. "And to anticipate your next facetious comment, neither do I think I hear a burglar outside."

Kirk laughed even harder. Finally, he was able to sober up and wipe the tears from his eyes. He sat up.

"I'm sorry. Look, I didn't mean to laugh, but it...the situation just seemed a bit... outrageous. I mean, sometimes our relationship strikes me as kind of...funny. You have to admit, it's nothing like we would have dreamed of a couple of years ago. It's really..." Kirk broke off, noting Spock's solemn expression. "I didn't mean I'm not happy with the way we are now," he added quickly. "I am. It's perfect. I just meant--"

"Jim, " Spock cut in, "you do not have to explain your feelings to me. I, too, have had many adjustments to make. I believe that may be part of the problem."

"Problem?" Kirk questioned in surprise. "What problem? I only meant it seems a little ironic at times, not that I have any complaints. I'm totally satisfied..." He trailed off worriedly. "Are you saying you're not? What's wrong?"

"It is not that I am not satisfied, Jim," Spock began hesitantly. "However, I do think a few alterations of your basic attitudes are in order."

"What are you talking about?' Kirk asked in confusion.

'For an example, you appear to feel it is natural for you to take the dominant role in our relationship. As a Vulcan male, the subordinate role in our bonding is not natural for me. Quite the opposite, in fact. In the beginning, I was uneasy about voicing my discontent." He smiled slightly and touched Kirk's shoulder. "I simply felt fortunate that you... that you loved me. Now, I have enough confidence in myself... and in you... to tell you how I feel."

Kirk was beginning to think he wasn't going to like this conversation. "Of course, I love you, and of course you can tell me how you feel.  But what's this about... about domination? Isn't the whole subject a little ridiculous?"

"No, I think it is important. It has taken me sometime to effectively separate your role as my commanding officer from that of you as my bondmate. A distinction must be made. As your first officer, you are my superior, and that will not change. You are better suited both by personality and character: As your bondmate, I have had to sublimate my normal reactions, and I believe it is time we came to a compromise."

Kirk regarded him uncertainly. "!'m not sure I understand what you're saying. Do you mean I'm supposed to be less... less aggressive? I'm sorry, but it wouldn' t feel right for me to be... to be passive."

"I understand. You are a naturally dominant man. I would not wish you to be otherwise. However, in this area, I am also aggressive. At least, I have the inclination to be, and you make that somewhat difficult at times. Your personality can be overwhelming."

"Spock," Kirk said quickly, "I don't always...I mean, sometimes you're..." Suddenly he was embarrassed.

'That is not what I mean, Jim." Spock smiled. "But I do think it is time for me to teach you how to make love properly."

Kirk's mouth fell open. "What? You teach me7"

"Your technique leaves much to be desired."

"You've got to be kidding."

"On the contrary, I am quite serious. You are often too abrupt and too impatient. Once the... the act begins, you are excellent; you take your time and are extremely proficient. Unfortunately, you spend too little time on the preliminaries, which can be just as exciting and stimulating if they are performed correctly."

Kirk was totally flabbergasted.    He flushed hotly. 'I've never had any complaints before," he mumbled.

Spock's eyebrow arched. "Perhaps they were too polite to say anything."

Kirk's eyes widened. "You're really serious, aren't you?" His jaw set stubbornly. "What makes you such an authority?"

"My instincts are well developed," Spock replied his voice calm and even. "With Vulcans, the touches are all significant. If you will permit me, I will instruct you." He touched Kirk's face tentatively, running two fingers along the line of his jaw.

Kirk pulled back. "Not now. I have to let this sink in for a whie."

"I have offended you," Spock said softly.

"No. Why should I be offended?' Kirk retorted dryly. "I'm used to being awakened in the middle of the night and told I make love like a Neanderthal."

"Jim, I was not--"

"Never mind, Spock." Kirk grinned wryly. "Let's just go back to sleep and forget this for now, okay?" He leaned over and kissed Spock lightly, laying back down on the bed. "Good night."

"Good night, Jim." Spock started to move closer, then he changed his mind. It might have been a mistake to spring this on Jim all at once. Neither had he been as subtle as he intended to be. He was quite aware of Jim's streak of vanity, and the last thing he had wanted to do was to hurt Jim's feelings. And yet, Jim expected him to be straightforward and open with him. The question was: Could Jim accept this kind of criticism gracefully?

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The next three days drove Kirk to distraction. Except for watching the small subspace video he had unearthed from one of the cabinets, he had found nothing to occupy the hours during the day while Spock was working on the computer. The video was over a month behind in the Federation news, and the documentaries were at least five years behind the times. He certainly knew more about timewarps than they did. The political programs bored him silly. Politics were politics in any star system, probably in any galaxy.

He did, however, get caught up in a daily space-opera serial entitled ' Zendi's Orbit.' The improbable plot revolved around the heroine, Zendi, who was the illegitimate daughter of a Federation Council member. Zendi was being pursued by Klingon agents, the Klingon agents being intent on gaining the secrets she had learned at her guardian's deathbed, where she had also found out that, rather than being his ward, she was actually her guardian's daughter by a green Orion slave girl. Zendi's true love, and the hero of the serial, was Tork. Tork was the first Andorian to become captain of a starship, and he had risen through the ranks by sheer bravery, intelligence, and spunk.

On the fourth day, after Tork had fired the phasers at least forty-seven times on the Klingon warship to save his dear Zendi, who was in the Klingon's clutches undergoing the mind-sifter and numerous other scantily-dressed tortures, Kirk switched the video off in disgust. The dilithium crystals would be melted butter by now, he thought. And how the hell did those space-opera writers come with the mind­sifter concept? Even if Zendi did look like a dream in that dragonhide 6-string, it wasn’t worth the irritation of sitting through the ridiculous scientific discrepancies. There were holes in the plot you could fly a shuttlecraft through!

Kirk wandered idly through the rooms, trying to stave off the crushing boredom. Unfortunately, the nights had not been all that terrific, either. Both he and Spock had been slightly uncomfortable after the first night's discussion. Kirk had been uncertain about initiating any lovemaking, afraid he would not do the correct thing and give Spock more to complain about. Spock, on the other hand, unbeknown to kirk, had Just wanted to give Jim’s ego time to recover from the bruising.

Kirk had tried very hard to consider Spock's comments impartially. It was not easy. He had always taken a high degree of pride in his proficiency at lovemaking, and to have Spock, who did not have a whole lot of experience, tell him he did not really know how to make love... well, it was a little hard to swallow. But the fact Spock had told him at all meant it was important to him. And Kirk had to admit there was some logic in what he said. He was honest enough to recognize that. However, to openly admit that his talent in that particular area was lacking was something else again.

He cast around hopefully for something, anything, to keep himself occupied. He was used to being active, and this quiet and inactivity got on his nerves. He was not about to bother Spock at work again. Although Spock had never said so specifically, he knew he had really screwed things up when he had tried to help before. He had no intention of repeating the same mistake.

Out of desperation for something to do, Kirk went outside the complex. It was terribly hot, but he did not want to go back in and stare at the walls, so he pulled off his shirt and tossed it back inside. He was careful to remain in the shadow of the rocks as much as he could; he knew he had a tendency to sunburn. He strolled across the bleak landscape, keeping to the shade.

When he realized he had come a couple of kilometers from the complex, he decided it would be best to start back. He had reversed his direction and taken only a few steps when he heard a familiar noise. He looked up curiously. A ship was landing. It was a shuttle for an ore ship, and it was of a very distinctive design: Orion.

Instinct drove Kirk back into a crevice. Adrenaline pumped through his veins in a quick, delightful rush. Something was happening at last, something that called for some action. He breathed a sigh of relief, thanking nameless gods for Orion ore smugglers.

For a moment Kirk paused, wondering just what they were planning on stealing. Tenulin was not exactly a rare mineral. It was not common to every planet, but neither was it the precious type of ore they were usually after. Of course, it was possible there were other things of value here. And besides, who could figure out what was in an Orion's mind?

In any case, it did not matter. Kirk was delighted to finally have something to do. If he could stop this theft, it would go a long way toward making him more popular with Spock's family, many of whom were not too thrilled with him to begin with. Most of all, it would definitely cure him of his boredom.

Carefully Kirk measured his chances. Obviously, he would have to wait until dark to move. The ship had landed in a clearing only fifty meters from the crevice. Any direction he went in in daylight meant he would be spotted quickly. It would be sunset in a few hours. He would have to bide his time and wait and check out their activities. He wished there were some way he could warn Spock.

As Kirk watched, several Orions exited the ship and moved toward the storage bins. They returned in a short while and went back into the ship. Evidently the sun was a bit too hot for them as well, and they were going to wait for darkness to begin moving the ore, or whatever it was they were intending to steal.

Kirk lay back against the rock and began formulating a plan.

Not surprisingly, it did not take long for Kirk's excitement to dim especially when he realized the movement of the sun would eventually bring the light into the crevice. Due to the position of the rocks, there was going to be a certain amount of time when he would be completely deprived of shade. There was not much he could do about it, either. Not without alerting the Orions to his presence.

Kirk settled back again, wishing fervently that he had not removed his shirt.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

With a sigh of satisfaction, Spock closed the computer panel. It was operating like clockwork. He knew Jim would be pleased, for there were three days remaining in their shore leave. He had expected the repairs to take much longer, however, the work had progressed rapidly, perhaps because he was so anxious to be with Jim. He was a bit concerned with the way Jim had been behaving since that first night. They had not made love since then, which was totally unlike Jim on shore leave. It worried Spock. He had not intended to make Jim unsure or uneasy with his comments, but apparently that was precisely what had happened, Now, they would have time to resolve the misunderstanding.

Spock went into the living quarters and was amazed to discover Jim was not there. He checked the sleeping area, the kitchen, and the lavatory. Finally, very much concerned, he returned to the living quarters. He decided Jim must have become restless and stepped outside for a short while. He sat down to wait for Jim's return, certain he would not be out very long in the heat.

Five point three-seven minutes later, Spock switched on the library computer. It would help pass the time while he was waiting, and he was also curious as to what Jim had been reading. Nearly half a page of a Vulcan treatise on the microspectral waves of the l'engal sea creature had been perused before he became aware of two glaring facts; first, Jim would find a treatise on the microspectral waves of the l'engal sea creature totally uninteresting, and second, Jim could not read Vulcan. Spock checked enough of the tapes to make sure they were all in the same language. For a second he sat there, puzzled. He was positive he had heard Jim say he was spending his time reading. Suddenly, with a start, it occurred to him that Jim had been less than honest with him. Obviously, he had not wanted to concern Spock with the fact he had nothing to keep him occupied.

Spock stood abruptly irritated that Jim had not told him the truth and wondering just what he had been doing. He knew quite well what Jim was like when he was bored and restless. Spock waited a few more minutes, then he made up his mind to go out and search for him. If there was any possible trouble to be found on this barren planet, the odds were excellent Jim would find it.

Only a short distance from the complex, Spock came face to face with an Orion. His first instinct was to reach for his nonexistent phaser, for he was as aware of their criminal propensities as Jim. The Orion made no aggressive move, however, and he seemed as surprised to see Spock as Spock was to see him. After they had spoken for a time, they went peacefully on their separate ways, the Orion into the complex, and Spock to search for Jim.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Kirk stiffened in apprehension when he saw Spock approaching the Orion ship. But just as he was wondering how to warn him off, a nagging suspicion entered the back of his mind. Spock did not appear to be concerned about the presence of the vessel, nor did he try to skirt it.

Maybe, Kirk thought, l've been a little too eager for some excitement and jumped to the wrong conclusions.

His suspicions were confirmed as Spock spoke to one of the Orions outside the ship and moved away undetained. Kirk winced, feeling terribly foolish, and slightly confused. As he maneuvered his way out of the rocks and walked toward Spock, he tried to act nonchalant, also keeping a wary eye on the Orion ship. He was not totally convinced they could be trusted.

Spock turned as Kirk called his name. "Jim, I was wondering where you were.  You should not have been out in the sun for this length of time." He paused, looking Kirk over critically. "And you should not have removed your shirt."

'Uh, yeah, well... I was hot. I didn't think I would be out this long," Kirk motioned in the direction of the Orion ship. "What the devil are they doing here? I thought..." He shrugged, not wanting to admit his imagination had galloped away with him.

"Yes, I was also startled by their appearance. Their credentials are in order. They are engaged in verified transport work."

"That's a switch! Do you mean to tell me your uncle hires these... these scavengers? I wouldn't think they'd be the most reliable employees he could find."

"Quite true, although they are inexpensive."

"They can afford to be," Kirk retorted dryly. "Between honest jobs, they're probably raiding every planet and asteroid from here to the Romulan Neutral Zone."

"In spite of our reservations, the Orions are now members of the Federation," Spock reminded him. "But I cannot say I approve of Sedric's decision to employ them."

"Neither do I. How long are they going to be here?"

"Only a few hours. They will leave as soon as they transport the ore shipment to the cargo vessel."

"Good." Kirk took a deep breath. "Let's get out of this heat."

"Jim," Spock began hesitantly as they started back toward the complex, "why did you not tell me the truth about the library computer?"

Kirk paused and glanced over at him sheepishly. "There didn't seem to be much point. You had your mind on other things. Speaking of which, how's the work going?"

Spock let the quick change of subject pass without objection. "It is completed."

"Really?" Kirk replied absently, his attention obviously on something else. 'That's great."

"Jim, are you still upset with me?"

"'Upset? What about?" Kirk answered vaguely.

Spock did not respond. Finally, Kirk sighed and said, "Okay. I'll admit you didn't exactly do my ego a world of good when you told me I needed lessons in how to make love. I guess I always thought I was the one teaching you."

"You taught me how to love," Spock answered softly. "That is what is important." He reached out and touched Jim's shoulder. Kirk jerked away as if he had been stung.

"Ouch!" Kirk looked down ruefully at his bare chest and arms. "Shit. I've got a goddam sunburn."

Spock regarded him sympathetically. "Perhaps there is some medication inside," he suggested.

"Do Vulcans get sunburned?" Kirk asked dryly. "Don't tell me. They're all too logical to go out without their shirts, right? What a vacation this has turned out to be!"

Spock was able to locate a first aid cream which he spread over Jim's very red back and chest, and It helped take the sting away, but it did not do anything to improve Kirks mood. He was burning more from embarrassment over his mistake with the Orions than he was from the sunburn. Nor was he quite ready to forgive Spock's criticisms. He was also too sunburned to agree to Spock's suggestion that they return to the Starbase for the remaining three days of their leave. Spock had wanted to come here and by god they were going to stick it out, no matter what. Kirk realized he was being more than a little ridiculous about the whole thing, but he was determined to prove he was a good sport, even if it killed them both.

Spock seemed to have a vast amount of patience with Kirk's sullen mood and stubbornness. In fact, it amused him a little. Poor Jim, he had had a rather difficult time of it. But Spock knew his bondmate extremely well, and he was certain Jim's strong sense of humor would resurface sooner or later. As the sunburn cooled, so would Jim's irascible temper.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The night before they were to leave, Kirk was finally able to see the humor in the last dreadful week. They were seated on the long Vulcan-style couch, and Spock was engaged in smoothing the last of the first aid cream over Kirk's bare back. Much to Spock's surprise, the broad shoulders began to shake, and a rumbling chuckle grew in the muscled chest. As Kirk turned to face Spock, Spock's arms remained around him loosely, giving Jim the option of turning the hesitant embrace into anything he wished.

Kirk looked into the dark, curious eyes and grinned broadly. He was a very affectionate man by nature, and Spock happened to be the one person in the galaxy he most wanted to be affectionate with. He was also more than a little tired of letting his pride and his hurt ego stand in the way.

"I've been acting like an ass, haven't I?" Kirk asked softly, brushing back the silky bangs with gentle fingers.

"Yes," Spock agreed readily, although his eyes were dancing with sympathetic humor.

Kirk looked startled for a second, then he laughed. 'That's why I love you so much, Spock. You're always so tactful."

"I think you prefer me to be honest." Spock regarded him fondly. "And you did ask. However, to be totally honest, I am more to blame for this than you. I could have predicted your response to coming here, and... and to what I told you. I should not have been so abrupt and... insensitive."

Kirk smiled and leaned closer, happy to feel Spock's arms tightening around him. He was even more relieved that the pressure of Spock's arms against his still slightly tender skin did not sting. "You weren't insensitive, Spock. You can't be responsible for my vanity and my ego. I think it did me a world of good. I'm glad you told me..." He stopped and started again. "Well, fairly glad, anyway!" he finished ruefully. He pulled the dark head forward, kissing Spock's mouth tenderly yet passionately, putting all the skill he possessed into it. Spock returned it appreciatively.

As he straightened, Kirk's eyes searching Spock's face for his reaction, torn between the belief that it had been a damn good kiss and wondering if it was quite good enough.

Spock read the unspoken question in Kirk's eyes and smiled in amusement. "Jim, you do not have to try so hard. This is not a test, and I am not grading you on your performance."

Kirk blushed as he realized something similar had been at the back of his mind. "Damn it, Spock. I can't help it. I'm just used to being..." He trailed off, not even sure of what it was that he wanted to say, He was accustomed to being the best at everything, to excelling in everything he did, and his sexual performance was high on the list of things he needed to feel perfect at. It was more of a subconscious need than a conscious one; he was hardly aware of it, let alone aware of the complicated reasons behind it.

Almost shyly, Kirk looked up. "I really do want to please you, Spock."

Spock sighed. "You always have, Jim. I never intended for you to feel otherwise." He took one arm from around Kirk's back and began tracing the arch of an eyebrow, trailing his fingers down Jim's cheekbone, noting that the usually perfect skin was still tinged with red. "You must know what great pleasure I take in your strength and in your flashes of temper, your humor, your..." It was Spock's turn to feel shy. "...your... beauty."

Kirk chuckled. "It's a damn good thing you don't love me just for my 'beauty' or I'd be in trouble right now. I must be about the same color as an Aldebaran rock-lobster... and I've been acting about as snappish."

Spock did not seem to be listening; he was still deep in his original thought. "Perhaps part of what attracted me to you was your certainty in yourself...what you term your vanity and ego. In reality, it is a self-assurance and a delight in your physical existence and life that I seem to lack."

Kirk was silent for a long moment, digesting what Spock had said, then he glanced at him curiously, not altogether sure he understood what Spock meant. "You aren't sure whether I find you attractive, are you?" He read the startled expression in the dark eyes and knew he had hit on something. "Good grief, haven't I been obvious about my delight in you?"

Spock ducked his head. "Jim, you do not have to--"

'You really don't think you're... sexy, do you?" Kirk cut in with amusement. He knew it was often difficult to be objective about yourself, but even Spock could not be that blind. "Spock, how could you think..." He broke off, suddenly remembering T'Pring's rejection, and realizing for the first time what it might have to done to Spock's ego. He tried to gauge what it would have done to him had he been in Spock's place. After all, his marriage to T'Pring had been a certainty in Spock's life since the age of seven, and her challenge, coming as it did at the most vulnerable point in his life, had been a slap in the face that would be horribly difficult to forget. It occurred to Kirk with sharp clarity that Spock' s physical self-image was quite low. He had little confidence in his own desirability, and that was probably why it had taken nearly six months for him to speak of his own desires. Maybe Spock had the subconscious fear that if he told him how he felt, Kirk would not think he was worth the effort? But six months of steady, open love had given Spock the confidence to speak. Suddenly Kirk felt marvelously good about Spock's criticism; it showed such utter faith in his acceptance and understanding, He also felt more than a little embarrassed at his original reaction.

"Spock," he began with a tender smile, "if you don't know how incredibly beautiful you are, I'll tell you. And just shut up and listen while I do. I think you need to know exactly how you affect me." He cleared his throat. "Sometimes when we're on the bridge and everything's quiet and routine, and I look over at you sitting at your science station, I have to hang on to my chair just to keep from going over and kissing the back of your neck. Don't you know how wonderfully graceful and sure of yourself you are at that computer?" Kirk's smile deepened. "I could almost be jealous. I've seen Uhura checking you out. She even used to flirt with you, until she gave it up as a lost cause. And then, there's Christine, of course. She's had her eye on you for years. As far as that goes, I've even noticed Kyle giving you the once-over."

Kirk had to laugh at Spock's totally amazed expression. "Okay, Kyle might be my imagination...though I'm not too sure.  The point is: Do you think I'd be jealous if you weren't so damn gorgeous? I've never thought I was particularly possessive, but I don't want anyone's eyes or hands on this long, lanky body except mine."

"Jim, you do not..." Spock was wonderfully embarrassed, his face a most becoming shade of green. This was definitely not the direction he had expected this conversation to take. Jim had surprised him, as usual.

Kirk was delighted by Spock's green flush. McCoy would have been in sheer ecstasy over an embarrassed Spock. Kirk lifted the lowered chin and forced the brown eyes to meet his. "Spock, how can I make you see? I never dreamed I'd want another man. God, if somebody had even suggested it, I probably would've decked them. Call it prejudice or misplaced male pride; I don't know. It just wasn’t something I would've considered. I do know that you hit me like a bolt of lightning, and once I recognized it for what it was, all my misconceptions and doubts went out the window. It's true it started with our closeness and our friendship and the love we felt for each other, but we could've had all of that without going any further with it. The problem was that I wanted you, in every way. I found you irresistibly sexy, and if you think it was easy for me to admit that to myself, you're wrong. It was as tough for me as it was for you. And, I must say, you made me a little nervous at first. For a while there, I thought Christine and I were going to have a lot in common..."

Spock's eyebrows shot up. Kirk ignored them and continued, "I was luckier, though. You wanted me, too. Believe me, that came as quite a shock."

For several seconds, Spock stared at him. 'Are you...are you saying you were not certain I would want you?"

"I was scared as hell. I was afraid I'd blow everything, but... I thought it was worth taking the chance. It was."

'Why...why did you want me?"

"Christ, do you really want me to go down the list?" Kirk tried to hold back his smile. Spock really did want to know. Slowly Kirk ran his fingers through the shining black hair. "Okay. First of all, you have the softest, most sensual hair I think I've ever touched. Then there's the fact my stomach turns to butterflies every time you look at me with those beautiful brown eyes. You have a strong, handsome, sober face that I try like hell to turn into a smile, and when you do, it's the most gentle, lovely face I've ever seen."

Kirk's hand trailed lower, opening Spock's shirt. "I also get a vicarious satisfaction from your hairy chest," he teased.

"Jim, please..." Spock was actually squirming.

Kirk continued mercilessly, enjoying Spock's all too evident discomfort. "And in case you didn't know it, green is favorite color." He kissed Spock again, very tenderly. "You were quite a challenge to me, Spock, I and can never resist a challenge. I'm a gambler, but I only like to gamble for high stakes: the best, like you. You, my modest Vulcan, can get me more excited than anyone I've ever known. I love you for that, too, as well as for uncountable other reasons."

This time, the kiss left Spock slightly breathless. He felt Jim pulling him down on the couch and tugging off his shirt. The nagging doubts were dissolving. Jim did want him. And Jim found him just as attractive, as impossible as that seemed.

"Now," Kirk said, a bit breathless himself, "how about those...lessons?"

It took a few moments for Spock to steady his reeling senses. Jim's efficiency in removing clothing was unparalleled. Somehow they were both quite nude and in very intimate contact, and Spock was still a little too dizzy with passion to remember how it had been accomplished. "You are doing excellently," he murmured against Jim's neck, eager to continue.

"Oh, no," Kirk insisted obstinately. "You said you had some things to teach me. I'm ready and willing to learn. You aren't getting out of it this easy!"

Spock paid no attention, being too occupied with nibbling at Jim's ears. Kirk laughed joyfully, delighted at Spock's eagerness. It did not seem to take much to have Spock aroused to the point of shaking intensity, either. There was a lot more Human in Spock than he would like to admit.

"Hey," Kirk teased, gasping as Spock's fingers brushed seductively over his chest, "I thought I was supposed to be the one who's too impatient? Are you sure it was all me?"

That stopped Spock. He met Kirk's amused gaze with chagrin. "Perhaps you have a point. Sometimes it is difficult to go slowly, with grace and lightness, when the excitement is so intense. There is a tendency to take the pleasure in a... gulp instead of a sip. Your energy is contagious."

"Bullshit," Kirk replied, pausing to run his tongue down Spock's stomach. He was satisfied with the resultant gasp. "It's obvious you appreciate my rather crude, clumsy Human technique. Maybe I'd like the Vulcan way as well. I'm something of a 'gulper' myself, but I'm willing to learn. Come on, Spock. Start the lesson! Human flesh is weak, and I'm starting to get carried away."

"Jim..." Spock sighed, pulling him closer. "How can anyone be so perfect, so...wonderfully perfect?"

"I don't know. I try hard, I guess," Kirk responded, his eyes sparkling with laughter.

Spock returned the teasing. "Jim, has no one ever told you that you are a tiny bit conceited?"

"Me?! Conceited? You told me just a while ago it was 'self-assurance.' Now, stop trying to change the subject and start the lesson."

Spock reached out, his fingers spread in the customary Vulcan fashion. "This is how it begins," he said softly. Kirk copied him easily. Spock touched the offered hand, and it was like a bolt of electricity grounded between them. Within seconds, both hands were trembling with subdued, harnessed passion, both arms were shot with melted fire that spread and flowed into the two bodies in subtle washes of hunger. It increased gradually, building and multiplying as the exquisite, barely perceptible, feathery light touches began to travel and grow more intimate.

Kirk decided somewhere along the progression... although by this time his decision-making processes were somewhat impaired... that the Vulcan method definitely had its attractions.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

"I wish you'd showed me that months ago," Kirk whispered against one pointed ear several hours later. "I thought I was flying. My whole body was singing. I don't think I know the right words to describe it. From now on, we'll make love like that all the time."


Kirk lifted his head to look at Spock. ''No'? What do you mean 'no'?"

Spock stretched luxuriously, like a sleek, well-fed cat. "I have decided I like the Human way."  His voice resembled a deep, rumbling purr.

Kirk was at a complete loss for words. But only for a moment. "What?" he demanded in an outraged tone. "After everything you said? You made me feel like a real Philistine. And now you want to go back to the 'Human way'? Oh, no, you don't..." He broke off abruptly as he noticed Spock had turned his face away to hide his smile. He leaned over and bit Spock's shoulder, hard. Spock jumped. 'That'll teach you not to tease me," Kirk said with a grin.

"Really, Jim, " Spock said calmly, inspecting the distinct teeth marks. "I realize you are a carnivore, but that was not very sanitary."

Kirk chuckled. "I'll have Bones give you a rabies shot when we get back to the ship."

Spock seemed to be actually considering the idea before he discarded it. The brown eyes were twinkling merrily. 'No. It would be necessary for me to explain how I received the bite."

"I'll tell him," Kirk offered sweetly. Then he began laughing so hard he nearly fell off the couch. 'I can just...just picture his face when he... asks you exactly where were bitten," he managed to get out between guffaws.

"On the couch, of course," Spock replied readily. He felt on the verge of giggling himself, not that he would ever permit it.

"On the..." This time Kirk did fall off the couch, and he lay on the floor, holding his sides as he gasped for breath.

Spock propped his chin in his hand and leaned over to look down at him. After a moment, he helped Jim up.

"I was not teasing you completely," Spock remarked conversationally. "I do like the... 'Human Way.' In any case, the variety is intriguing: the best of both worlds. I am sure we can reach a happy medium."

 Kirk grinned and moved closer. "Mmm, happy is right. You make me happy. You feel good, you smell good, and now I can verify that you taste good, too. And you tell me I'm perfect? Damn, I wish we had another week of shore leave. You should kick me for wasting this one."

Spock kissed the receptive mouth instead. It still was not easy for him to be so openly emotional, so he turned the topic to more practical matters. "Your nose is peeling," he said softly.

Kirk chuckled. "You say the nicest things."

The next kiss promised a totally 'Human' result.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

They settled back in the shuttlecraft, relaxing for the fourteen-hour trip back to the Starbase. Kirk set the controls on automatic as the planet faded from sight. He felt a twinge of regret, wishing he had not wasted so much of their shore leave pandering to his all too tender ego. He was still deliciously tired from the previous night. Some of the pleasure still echoed down to his toes, and even the memory of it created a sympathetic tightening in his groin.

Kirk glanced over at Spock sitting in the chair beside him. Spock was as calm and as impassive as ever. It was a little difficult to envision him as the passionate, seductive creature of the night before, a curious mixture of gentle/fierce and demanding/submissive. Just as I was, Kirk thought with a secret smile. Are we that different, after all? Sex is such a power game at times, and it's so much fun to win...and so much fun to lose. I never realized how delicious it is to do both, how wonderful and beautiful and exciting...

After six months, it felt like a honeymoon again, for they now understood each other much better. The unspoken problem of adjustment between being captain and first officer and bondmates had been resolved somewhere during the long, fantastic night. An equal but shifting relationship as lovers, as opposed to the solid sure sense of who was captain and who was first officer. Kirk never would have permitted less, and Spock never would have wanted it otherwise. Kirk was his captain, first, last, and always. As for who was the dominant partner in the bonding, it was doubtful if that would ever be totally settled. Both were determined to win that one, and the delightful battle would continue for a very long time; two strong personalities clashing lovingly and joyfully, with no real desire to learn the outcome. It really did not matter to either of them. The struggle itself was too much fun.

Kirk's thoughts were interrupted by a distinct squeak. His eyes widened, and he turned slowly to look at Spock. "What the hell was that?"

"What was what?" Spock replied innocently.

"That noise. Didn't you hear it?'

Spock looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Perhaps your chair needs oiling," he offered vaguely.

The sound was repeated, and it was definitely a squeak. Kirk gave Spock a suspicious look. Spock was studying the controls with fascinated concentration. Kirk stood and loved to the rear of the shuttle, returning with a cage full of squeaking rodents.

"Okay, Spock," he demanded threateningly. "Do you want to explain what this is?”

Spock began to recite the exact terminology, but when he caught the inflexible expression on Kirk's face he thought better of it. "Jim, I..." He shrugged helplessly.

Kirk glanced back at the mice, then at Spock. He gave up and started to laugh. "All right, Spock. You win. You can keep your mice until our next trip to Vulcan. There are two conditions, though. One, make damn sure they don't get loose and end up in Scotty's engines."

Spock relaxed gratefully. "Certainly. What is the other condition?"

Kirk settled back in his chair, closing his eyes with a grin. "You take the con. I need some sleep."

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